Automatic MOD Installation: Then and Now

Josh will be talking about the history of automatic MOD installation (not just pertaining to phpBB), up to what’s coming in 3.1.

GNU diff/patch is “older than a wild Yuriy (1970s)” and powers the automatic updater. Diff/patch is well-supported in the *nix world, but not-so-well supported in the Win32 world.
In phpBB, GNU diff/patch is completely functional, but misses several items that MODs use, such as metadata, new file copies are more difficult, and “do it yourself” non-file change instructions. It’s not easy to process by hand.

EasyMOD was 2002-03, the granddaddy of this for phpBB3. Originally written by Nuttzy99, later picked up by Jim (TerraFrost). Performed MOD file changes well, but that’s about it. Couldn’t handle custom styles or translations. Josh steps us through a sample MOD install of Nils’ April Fools MOD for phpBB2 using EasyMOD 0.4.0 beta.
No options to speak of in EasyMOD, most support questions revolved around initial setup, especially permissions.

The MODX transition began because the Text Template limited what EasyMOD could do. It was a verbosepatch with some metadata, didn’t work well with translations and multiple styles, etc. MODX allowed the new AutoMOD features to exist (just not always in an obvious or friendly fashion, or equitably). Now Josh steps through a sample MOD installation with AutoMOD 1.0.0 — noxwizard’s EasyPortal for phpBB3. Still has some issues that are not intuitive.

The Ascraeus MOD installer has the following priorities: Fix the user interface, address the inequities (things you can’t do with AutoMOD though supported by MODX), and make the code more flexible. No screenshots yet because the UI isn’t available yet, so far only backend work has been done.
The new MOD installer will move closer to a wizard interface, and give the user all relevant prompts before installing the MOD. Demonstrates the process of installing “RMcGirr83′s Beer MOD”. First get to tell AutoMOD how to process styles, how to process languages, if this is an upgrade to an existing MOD or not, and then start the install.

Question: Will phpBB 3.1 will be supporting a language fallback? For example, if new English strings are added that don’t exist in German, will phpBB fall back to showing the English strings by itself? Answer is no, not feasible at this time because of how the language files are implemented. Not feasible to calculate whether or not to fallback on a string-by-string basis.

Will phpBB interface with and the customization database? Answer is maybe, but only if the feature can be completed in time for the Ascraeus release.

Titania: The Customization Database

The Customization Database is an application that has been in use since the retirement of Ariel (the previous MODs/Styles Database), and Titania now handles more than just MODs and Styles and has many more features.

Titania improved searching contributions greatly over Ariel, makes category listings more prominent, easier to access and navigate. Now offers screenshots and demo links more prominently, and for non-styles as well. Titania also makes previous revisions available to the public for download. Much more prominent Download button.

For authors, contributions can now contain more information (screenshots, co-authors, demo URL, etc.) and allows for updating/editing this information for the contributions. Each contribution now has its own Support and FAQ sections, and support topics are propagated to a single location for authors. No longer necessary to cram all support into a single topic within the MODs or Styles Releases forum.

Titania also brings automation to the MOD revision process, including automatic checks by the MPV (MOD pre-validator) and AutoMOD. Author can immediately see the result and make fixes immediately without waiting for validation.

Titania is very maintainable. The code is object-oriented and generally contained in classes, and is built to integrate seamlessly with a phpBB installation. Titania makes use of a similar hooks system that phpBB has. Requires no edits in phpBB to install it, despite its size.

Unlike Ariel, Titania’s code is not directly integrated with but is its own application. It has been released on Code Forge so that International Support Teams can use it on their own websites rather than having to build their own.

Titania uses its own system to provide the individual support forums for contributions, and is completely standalone, although it does take advantage of phpBB APIs where necessary.

Installing MODs for phpBB

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